Harry Clarke window in Carrickmacross. Image source: https://roaringwaterjournal.com

Monaghan Museum Curator Liam Bradley was the invited guest presenter at Tydavnet Historical Society’s April meeting in Ballinode Church Hall. Liam has been 17 years in charge of Monaghan museum which has an impressive collection of artefacts. He spoke of the importance of collecting heritage, and the negative influence of TV shows like “Bargain Hunt” and “Antiques Roadshow” where individuals are encouraged to sell items of heritage value, and the positive role of shows like “National Treasures”on RTE that explores fascinating objects in the hands of ordinary people that reveal the social history and hidden history of Ireland over the last 100 years.

Monaghan Museum was founded in 1974, and became the first full time staffed Local Authority Museum in the Republic of Ireland.  In 1980 the museum won the Council of Europe Prize for excellence in community involvement, and to this day remains the only Irish museum to have ever won this award. The professionalism of the museum staff was also reflected in awards for Best Collections Care in 1993 and again in 2004 under the Irish Museum of the Year Awards. The 1916 Exhibition, ‘From a whisper to a roar’, which Prof Terence Dooley, Dept of History, collaborated on with Monaghan County Museum, was awarded the 2016 Public Sector Magazine Award for Best Exhibition; and the Special Award for National Commemorative Events at the Chambers Ireland Excellence in Local Government Awards. In 2008 Monaghan County Museum became the first Local Authority Museum in the country to achieve full accreditation under the Museum Standards Programme for Ireland – a series of 32 standards to be achieved for work in collection care, governance, and visitor care.

In his presentation to the Historical Society, Liam gave everyone a “virtual tour” of the Monaghan museum collection, and what a fascinating snapshot it was. One of the first items mentioned was a banner from Tydavnet AOH Division No 292, featuring an image of St Patrick banishing the snakes, and a reverse image of a scene from the Penal times. The Tydavnet AOH Division 1031 banner was also presented, and this one featured  John Redmond MP, the leader of the Irish Nationalist establishment 1912. The next items are not in Monaghan museum, but are significant to the local area. The Bachaill Damhnait – an early version of a lie detector- was also described, as were the famous Tydavnet Sun Discs – symbol of the National Museum. These have great significance nationally, and displaying incredible repoussé craftsmanship on paper thin gold, and similar designs have been found all over Europe. Another decorative article included in the presentation were the Clones gold dress fasteners – two large, highly polished, bell-shaped terminals joined with a connecting solid gold bow, which may have had ceremonial function or acted as a symbol of status and power for the owner.

Weapons in the museum collection also tell us a lot about the culture of war and hunting – ways to kill and ways to keep people from being killed, and there are a number of axe heads from early bronze era to the late bronze age, and these showed the evolution of tools and their craftsmanship.

The postcard and photo collection of the museum embodies a collection of several thousand images, many from the camera of Annyalla based photographer Donal McEnroe. For nearly 50 years Donal has documented events, people and places in County Monaghan. It is a unique photographic archive of a county and people that has undergone significant social change in that time. This exhibition focuses on a pre-digital age of analogue technology and artisanal craft, hallmarks of a gentler pace of life – photos from Tydavnet, Scotstown, Ballinode, Cornagilta School, and rural life in the area. Also featured were photos from the “Fíor Céilís” which were organised by Antoine McCartaine in Tydavnet village in the early 1970s, as well as aerial footage, got at great expense – now captured by the use of a remotely operated camera drone. Among the images were important local people like Eamonn Murray  one of the founders of Comhaltas and the first Fleadh Cheoil na h-Éireann, and William Francis de Vismes Kane – a famous lepidopterist from Drumreaske who died on 18th April 1918. William Francis was High Sheriff for Monaghan twice, and was a member of the Select Vestry of Ballinode Church of Ireland, he is buried in Coolshannagh graveyard. Other images included rare pictures of Gola House, Hilton Park, Mount Louise, as well as political letters  of the area. Again, all these spelled out the importance of collecting the banal – not just the fantastic.

Image source: https://roaringwaterjournal.com

St Dympna and St Davnet also featured in the talk – and a lovely image from the Harry Clarke window in St Joseph’s Church, Carrickmacross. The St Ceara window was completed in 1925, and is the only Carrickmacross window to have been completely designed and partly created by Harry Clarke. Apart from St Dympna, the window also features St Macartan, St Tighernach, and Saints Enda and Fachnea.

In dealing with the past, there is a challenge to be historically accurate – and the Thomas Brennan collection in Monaghan Museum is a real treasure. Thomas (originally from Augherakelton, Scotstown), who was born in 1884 and died in 1958, was Second in Command of the 5th Northern Division of the IRA. He was interned at Ballykinlar Internment Camp in County Down. He was married to Teresa O’Neill from Scotstown, and they had a shop there at Drumdesco. Thomas Brennan’s son Pat, who lived in Cootehill, donated a valuable archive relating to his father’s activities as an IRA commander to Monaghan County Museum in September 2015. These materials included a Mauser pistol, a large number of documents relating to the Division’s actions, as well as some fine examples of Macramé that Thomas himself created during his internment. The documents had initially lain in a shed behind Pat’s house in Cootehill, but then brought to Trinity College where they were photocopied by well known historian Euman ÓHailpín from Letterkenny, a nephew of Pat’s wife Nuala. Thomas and many others were released when the Treaty was signed. The Marron papers from 1965 are a collection of stories from war veterans which runs to over 600 pages – lots of interesting pieces also from local old IRA brigades, which make living history interesting, accurate and accessible.

To finish, Liam invited everyone to attend the “Know Me” exhibition which is opening in Monaghan Museum on Thursday 19th April 2018, a unique and captivating exhibition exploring the challenges of discrimination and social exclusion in today’s society through the voices of those who experience it. This exhibition, which features ten fictional characters based on real life experiences of discrimination and social exclusion in Ireland, reflects how we can often make a judgement about someone solely on how they look and the stereotypes associated with them. This lack of awareness can lead to discrimination and inequality in our society.  In this ground breaking display, we are all invited to get to know the people in your community, and to challenge ourselves Know Me, not the Stereotype. Admission Free, everyone welcome.

Ceramic poppy from the poignant ‘Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red’ at the Tower of London in 2014 which featured 888,246 poppies, representing a British or Commonwealth life lost during the First World War.

Multimedia freelance journalist Michael Fisher was in attendance at the talk on the night. Local ladies Marie McKenna, Ruby Heasty, Heather Stirrat and Michael researched the life of Private Robert Hamilton, Irish Fusilier, from Kilmore East, Ballinode, who fought and died in World War I. Michael presented this research to the community in November 2014, and out of that presentation, Tydavnet Historical Society evolved. Robert Hamilton enlisted in Monaghan in the Royal Irish Fusiliers in March 1915, and initially fought at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.  He left Ballinode again on Easter Saturday, March 1918 and returned to battle on the western front in France, only to be killed three weeks later. His name is included on the Tyne Cot memorial near Ypres/Ieper in Belgium, and a tablet in Ballinode Church of Ireland is dedicated to his memory. Michael has taken a special interest in WW1 and his life, and he presented a ceramic poppy to Ronnie Wilkinson to commemorate Robert’s death 100 years ago. The poppy came from the art installation “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” at the Tower of London 2014, which marked one hundred years since the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the First World War. Created by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, 888,246 ceramic poppies were used in the installation. It is hoped that the ceramic poppy will be used in a commemorative ceremony in Ballinode Church at a later date.

Thanks to LIam, and everyone who came along to the talk – it was very enlightening, and provided a call to us all to visit the museum, appreciate what it has, and the important role it plays in celebrating our culture and heritage. Admission is free, it’s a great way to while away the hours.

Michael Fisher and Ronnie Wilkinson